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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

Eclectic Prog

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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Grim album cover
3.77 | 17 ratings | 5 reviews | 6% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2005

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Coming Soon To A Cinema Near You (1:08)
2. Through A Storm (7:11)
3. Love Is ... (2:15)
4. A Lark (5:47)
5. That's The Price You Pay (4:28)
6. The IceMan Cometh (4:00)
7. Hebden Bridge (4:58)
8. Loot (1:01)
9. Harp And Carp (5:23)
10. Birds (1:16)
11. Location, Location, Location (2:51)
12. Abendrot (4:36)
13. Marsch Burleske (2:39)
14. Pas de Deux (3:28)
15. A Scene From A London Flat (3:21)

Total Time 54:30

Line-up / Musicians

- Woolly Wolstenholme / voice, Mellotron, keyboards, acoustic and electric twelve-string guitars, trumpet
- Steve Broomhead / voice, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin and musical saw
- Craig Fletcher/ voice, four and five-string and fretless electric basses and bull fiddle
- Kim Turner / voice, drums and percussion, Spanish guitar, recorders

Releases information

CD Eclectic ECLCD 1029, 2005

Thanks to Joolz for the addition
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WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Grim ratings distribution

(17 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(71%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What's this, a concept album? A selection of episodes in the lives of the townsfolk of Grimroyd, an infamous industrial haven of northern England - "It was cold, it was wet, but most of all, it was ... Grim!" - complete with the remnants [salvaged from the ashes of a disastrous fire at Grimroyd's towering Dibnah Theatre] of a suitably tacky musical. Lloyd-Webber had better watch out!

This, the latest, and possibly best, of Woolly Wolstenholme's musings sees his old chum Kim Turner back in the fold taking over the drum stool from Kevin Whitehead. Otherwise it is business as usual and musically, Grim follows the format of its predecessor, perhaps a touch tighter and more focussed, the sound of a band well into its stride. We are unlikely to meet with any surprises, given the mature career point reached by Woolly and the band, but Grim certainly shows them continuing to hone their art. What they lack in youthful exuberance is more than compensated by the sheer quality of musicianship.

While acoustic, and particularly 12 string, guitars have become ever more prominent in their output, the first sound heard here is the Mellotron, a welcome pointer that all is going to be well. And indeed it is, with all the necessary ingredients in their proper places: a variety of keyboards including authentic orchestral effects amongst classic Hammond and Mellotron; Steve Broomhead's guitar work stronger and better than ever; backed up by an excellent tight yet sympathetic rhythm section equally at home handling soft loping passages or forceful rock work-outs.

Lyrically, Grim is paradoxically less dark than its predecessor. Subjects range from insightful comments on relationships [Through A Storm and Kim Turner's That's The Price You Pay], via barbed reflections on modern society [The Iceman Cometh and Location, Location, Location], and studies in escapism [A Lark and Hebden Bridge] to a modern adaptation of an old English folk song [Harp + Carp], though I have to say that two soppy love songs on the same album [Love Is and Pas De Deux] is at least one too many for my taste!

Musically, the album stretches, in Woolly's trademark shapeshifting style, from gentle acoustic ballad to grand anthemic statement, encompassing some rockist moments along the way. Stand-out Prog tracks include opener Through A Storm, which progresses from big fanfare to small vocal and back in classic Woolly style embracing some Mellotron and Hackett-like guitar along the way, while Hebden Bridge is another all time favourite, reminiscent of Trick Of The Tail era Genesis, with a dreamy acoustic opening building to a fantastic majestic crescendo of soaring guitars and abundant Mellotron. It doesn't get much better than that!

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Dear Woolly comes back with his loyal band members : Steve Broomhead and Kim Turner were there already in the early days of "Maestoso" which means some twenty-five years prior this album. When I see the total lack of interest for his work (even amongst die-hard BJH fans), I wonder if he did the right choice in pursuing a second career. Well, actually he did. This work is probably his best one to date.

The opening number is very much "El Dorado" oriented ("ELO"). The "overture" is almost carbon copied (in its spirit). The next piece of music is brilliant. It is fully remininscent of the best BJH ones. Truely symphonic, bombastic keyboards, pompous sections. It belongs to the very best of Woolly's repertoire of course, but it also competes with the "Mocking Bird", "She Said" and "After The Day". I guess that you get the picture. The problem with such magical tracks is that either they are duplicated during the album and then you'll get a masterpiece work or they just over-shadow the rest of the album. Let's hear how Woolly is going to cope with this.

Since it is a concept album, several transition tracks will be featured (three, four in total).

"A Lark" is the second "real" song. A pleasant and pastoral song. Some orchestration will remind the very early BJH work. But it is not as much invading in this song as previously. This number sets the stage for the entire album. Quiet, pleasant and mellow music with some orchestrations. Nothing will hurt the listener (but I guess we are hardly expecting this from "Maestoso").

It is an album that any BJH fan (early Polydor era) should listen to. It does not play in the same division than their most brilliant ones but it is still a very decent work. Just listen to the beauty of "That's The Price You Pay". Fully in-line witht the spirit of the whole of "Grim". Some pop-rock with "The Iceman Cometh" to break the mellow (but nice) style.

Because this album sounds a bit too much of the same. Even if "Hebben Bridge" will feature some beautiful symphonic moments. Another good song. Did I say beautiful yet simple music ? Sounds a bit like "Entangled" (Genesis) during the closing and instrumental part.

"Harp + Carp" is some sort of medieval gigue. Not my cup of tea (but I guess that you might know this by now...). It will drastically change from mood after three minutes. Back again in the most symphonic style : great guitar and church organ. This is a more elaborate song. Not brilliant but interesting due to the mix of genres. When you listen to such a song (but there are many more in Woolly's repertoire which give me the same sort of feeling), this artist should better sit in the "Symphonic" section rather than in the "Eclectic Prog" (what a weird appelation - even if some other prog sites did use it for a long time already). To sit in the same category as Crimson, Van Der Graaf or Gentle Giant is rather strange.

Just listen to the second part of "Abendrot". Isn't it fully symphonic ? One will also notice Woolly's inclination for orchestration of course while listening to "Overture" (would you believe !). It is a long trip back in the early seventies and BJH "Harvest" years while the orchestra would almost ruin the band. This song is dispensible, to say the least.

"Pas De Deux" is another very smooth and romantic song. I would have titled it "Tête à Tête" (back to your on-line translation tool). Would have been more appropriate. The closing number is a bit of a weak one. I should have preferred something more "hazardous".

The last three songs are not on par with the rest of the album. Still, three stars for this pleasant album.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Dark now my sky? More of a happy old world really

Woolly Wolstenholme's contribution to the success of Barclay James Harvest has never been fully recognised. John Lees and Les Holroyd arguably have the stronger voices and are the principal songwriters, but it was the keyboard work of Woolly, together with his contribution of about one song per album, which transformed the band into the major act they have remained for almost 40 years.

Wolstenholme actually retired from music altogether for an extended period, only returning towards the end of the last century to join John Lees version of BJH. He has since come through health issues and rekindled his solo career.

"Grim" was released in 2005, and is without doubt his finest achievement to date. The title is a reference to the phrase "grim up north", relating to the satanic mills and challenging lifestyle of midlands and northern England during the industrial revolution. There is a confidence and majesty to this album which was lacking on some of Maestoso's earlier material, the songs tending to have more in common with Woolly's songs for BJH such as "Ra" and "Beyond the grave".

After the brief amusing intro of "Coming soon.", "Through a storm" is a magnificent slice of power prog which is right up there with anything Woolly wrote for BJH. This 7 minute epic in four parts offers a feast of keyboard layers over which Wolstenholme places one of his finest vocal performances.

My criticism of other solo offerings by Woolly has tended to focus on his vocals. While in general I enjoy his style, I find he does not have the strength to carry an entire album. This is where "Grim" differs though, as the songs here are ideal for his voice, while Wolstenholme himself appears to have made a significant effort to improve things too.

Acoustic guitar is a welcome feature throughout the album, introducing songs such as "A lark" and "Love is". "That's The price you pay" is not the Springsteen song of a similar name, but there is a passing resemblance in the mood of the song and the pleasant melody.

One of the more bizarre twists on the album is the wonderful "The iceman cometh", a paean to the ice cream van which combs the streets selling wares of dubious quality and price ("What goes on inside the dairy"). The brief "loot" is Steve Broomhead's "Horizons"; a pleasing acoustic guitar solo.

Another interesting number is "Harp + carp". Anyone familiar with the work of Steeleye Span will recognise the title as being extracted from the lyrics of the traditional "Thomas the Rhymer". It is only the lyrics though which are "distilled" from that song, the heavy melody being entirely contemporary.

"Abendrot" is an arrangement by Wolstenholme of a piece by the composer Falschbier. The piece is reminiscent of "Moonwater" from "Baby James Harvest", with magnificent symphonic qualities. It is followed by a second orchestral piece "Overture Marsch Burleske", this time composed by Woolly himself.

Overall, a fine album from Woolly, who is in many ways doing more to keep the spirit of BJH alive than his colleagues who enviously cling on to the name in ludicrous formats. Here, we can still find vestiges of the prog influences which characterised the work of that band in the 1970s.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars Burlesque musical?

I find this more interesting than any album by Barclay James Harvest. Grim is diverse yet consistent, there are no awful songs. The songs are full of quirks and there is a perfect mix of the harmonic and the dissonant, the humours and the serious, the conventional and the weird, the sombre and the gritty. And it all holds together very well. Grim has the same kind of dark atmosphere as some of Steve Hackett's recent albums like the excellent To Watch The Storms. The cover art captures this atmosphere very nicely. On the photo of the band inside the booklet they look as if they belong to a different age. They look really cool, I think!

Overall the album is quite mellow but there are some surprising harder rocking passages and some very good lead guitar work on many tracks. The guitars are surprisingly well played and the backing band here has nothing to envy from Barclay James Harvest. Rather, Barclay James Harvest has something to envy from Maestoso. The keyboards, mainly Mellotron, are omnipresent, but as on Barclay James Harvest's albums, the keyboard playing of Woolly was never flashy or virtuosic. He was never a Rick Wakeman or a Keith Emerson, or even a Tony Banks. The keyboards here rather just provide a symphonic backdrop for the lead guitars and vocals.

The electric guitars on the softer passages on Trough A Storm sound very much like Robert Fripp. Indeed, this song has several similarities with King Crimson's early style. Woolly's vocals are fragile and tender but not weak. He could perhaps be compared with Richard Wright of Pink Floyd vocally. And perhaps not just vocally, they were both keyboard players in bands with much larger egos than themselves and both made good albums outside their bands emphasizing their own individual aspect of their respective bands.

The material is strong but it took several listens for me before I got into it. Some of the songs have a strong Folk influence, which I like. Harp + Carp is the most folky tune here, it begins in a very traditional vein, but half-way through there is a surprising rather dissonant guitar onslaught that ends with some church like organ and a harmonic symphonic ending. Interesting!

There are also many classical influences. Loot is a little acoustic guitar piece in classical style written by the guitarist of the band, Steve Broomhead. A lovely interlude! In addition to Mellotron, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals there are some trumpet, mandolin, musical saw, bull fiddle and recorders. It very often sounds like they have a full symphony orchestra in there!

The last three tracks are given the humorous heading of Three Pieces Of Musical? - The Musical and starts with an overture called Marsch Burleske.

With folky, classical, rock (and burleske!?) influences, Eclectic Prog is indeed the perfect description of this music. Maybe this is what Barclay James Harvest should have been more like.


Latest members reviews

4 stars Maestoso is the band fronted by ex-Barclay James Harvest keyboards player Woolly Wolstenholme. "Grim", the latest of the three albums released under Maestoso's name, is a masterful collection of songs and music of different styles, knitted together by Woolly's ability with arrangements - the e ... (read more)

Report this review (#95311) | Posted by alextorres | Saturday, October 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink


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